Whether you are #YEStoAV, #NOtoAV or simply #MEHtoAV: there is no denying that the current system is in urgent need of reform.  Crucially, it will be ‘reform’ not ‘revolution’.  It is certainly something that the ‘conservative’ Whig Edmund Burke would understand.  The referendum on the Alternative Vote was agreed as part of the Conservative- Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement 2010.  Under the current First Past the Post (‘FPTP’) system, you only get one choice, and as a result most MPs, 2 out of 3, of those elected in 2010, get to Parliament with less than half the voters on their side.  This is hardly a mandate to be decision makers and our representatives.  In contrast, with AV successful candidates have to do more in order to secure majority support.

So, why should there be electoral reform?  Under the current FPTP half of the seats in the UK are effectively safe, and are unlikely to ever change hands.  It is ridiculous for a single MP to have a secure seat for life, as it results to complacency and taking the voters for granted, clearly reflected in the MPs’ expenses scandal.  This goes a long way in explaining why there is so much voter apathy, and many people I speak to say that there is no point in voting, as their vote never counts.  In some seats, 7 out of every 10 voters wanted other candidates, but their views are ignored.  It is imperative that there is a constituency link, and that voters feel that they have a connection with their MP.  It is traditionally held that FPTP delivers strong governments although in the 1950s, 1960s and 1990s single party governments were not effective in governing alone.  Also, hung parliament was delivered under it in 1910, 1929, 1974 and 2010.  The most popular debate argument used is that FPTP offers a protection against extremism.  This is simply not true, and in town halls across Britain, BNP councillors have won power despite being opposed by the vast majority of mainstream voters.

These inadequacies with our electoral system must stop.  Yet many people are hostile to the idea of change, so what exactly is ‘AV’?  The Yes to fairer votes website explains that ‘It’s simple. The small change to the Alternative Vote (‘AV’) just means swapping the ‘X’ on your ballot paper for numbers. You can rate the candidates how you see fit, and so if your favourite doesn’t win, you can still have a say…. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…’  Importantly, not all candidates have to be ranked on the ballot paper: we will still be free to just place one ‘X’ by the candidate we think most suitable.

But why exactly is AV a better system?  First of all, the elected MP is more representative of the community, as they will have 50+% of the vote.  It will mean candidates will have to work much harder for your vote and MPs will definitely be more accountable. This very fact will mean voters will get more involved in elections, as they will feel as though their voice will make a difference.  It is a voting opportunity that will offer the chance of an honest vote, and the electorate will not feel as though they have to engage in tactical voting.

There are a few myths about AV that the ‘No’ camps have been propagating.  These need to be addressed.  Firstly, the implementation of AV will not cost £250.  This number has been plucked out of thin air.  Also, they obviously do not understand how government spending works.  The cost will be taken out of the relevant departments that run elections.  Also, AV is not far too confusing.  The British electorate do not need to be patronised.  All the voter has to do is rank the candidates, order of preference.  And this is how people voted in the London Mayoral elections.  The argument that AV helps the BNP is not true.  In fact, the BNP have already called on their supporters to back a ‘No’ vote. Currently as MPs can get elected with support from less than 1 in 3 voters, there is always a risk that extremist parties can get in.  In addition, if people say that no one uses AV, this is not true.  It is a tried and tested system.  In Britain, millions of people, charities, and trade unions already use it.  MPs themselves use it to elect their speakers and their officials, and political parties use it to elect their leaders.  The referendum is on 5 May: this is our chance to get some more accountability from politicians.